12/30/10. Thursday evening. Live music at the Koffee Kat but there was more to it than entertainment.
People gathered to take a positive approach to the problem of assaults and rapes in Plattsburgh City. Chris Rigsbee was the victim of a violent incident one night that so far hasn't lead to any arrests. He and his girlfriend were attacked by four men, apparently college students, on Broad Street. Chris was brutally beaten and his girlfriend was punched when she tried to help him.
Between performances at the coffeehouse concert there was open discussion about what could be done about the problem.
One of the issues raised was that assaults and rapes are under-reported; most victims don't call the police. This leads to the wrong perception that Plattsburgh is safer than it really is.
At the same time the City Police Department should be more open with its blotter, sharing all information besides arrests. Open cases are never shared.
It was suggested that a neighborhood watch group could be created, volunteers with cellphones set to speed dial 911.
Lowell Wurster stated that rape and attempted rape are under-reported. He used to work part-time as a volunteer at the Crisis Center back in 2005-2007. After the open discussion he told me he received at least two calls per month pertaining to rape just on his shift. He stressed that under-reporting wasn't a local problem, that it happens in other communities. It's estimated that with 80 per cent of such cases the victims never contact the police.
Chris Rigsbee briefly talked about his experience, urging victims to speak out. At one point he had trouble speaking, the incident too fresh in his mind. He stepped back for a moment to collect his thoughts. Then he continued, saying that he could understand why victims were afraid or embarrassed to report an assault but it had to be done to raise the community's awareness.
During the open discussion there was speculation that the city and college, PSUC, might be too concerned about projecting the best image. Maybe they both prefer to keep bad incidents quiet because students mean money, bread and butter. Some might not attend PSUC if they knew how dangerous the city can be.
On the topic of PSUC I spoke with George Wurster later to get his view. He said that the college should "read the riot act" to students at the beginning of the year and continue to enforce it throughout the year. He said the college wasn't "hands on" enough with students.
The event was also an opportunity to financially support Chris Rigsbee to help him cover his medical expenses. Without any health insurance he quickly ran up a sizeable bill.
It was announced that a peaceful demonstration is planned on February 3rd from 3 to 6 PM in the vicinity of where Chris was assaulted. It was noted that due to legal concerns the area can only be described as somewhere between 50 and 60 Broad Street.